For the past twenty years, the III FFC has stood for raising standards in the construction industry and providing a level playing field for responsible contractors. The next step in advancing our mission is to raise awareness for our neglected water systems to ensure we are providing fresh water and treating wastewater and storm water efficiently. Going forward this will be a key component to our economic success.
In 2018 the American Society of Civil Engineers issued its infrastructure report card for Illinois providing a C- rating in the areas of drinking water and wastewater treatment. In short, this grade means our systems are “mediocre, require attention and are just above poor.” Other words and phrases used to classify our water systems include: “signs of deterioration, significant deficiencies, and increasing vulnerability to risk.” These are not phrases you want associated with your water supply.
Any solution to raising our grade will require advocacy and education regarding our water problems, as well as proposed solutions. The III FFC is stepping forward as an advocate for this issue in Illinois. Now we need to begin the critical process of educating legislators and public bodies in our state about the problems we are facing.
First and foremost, the age of most of our water systems is in the 50- to 100- year range. These water systems are outdated and designed for smaller populations than what our current systems can handle. Second, while water infrastructure is underneath us, we cannot live by the mentality that these systems are out of sight, out of mind. Too often this is an afterthought in communities, but there are warning signs to look for.
For example, public bodies may experience outages or boil orders due to water main breaks. When most systems get to the end of their useful life, there will be more frequent local interruptions in the water service. A public body may have to consider raising their water rates. Local water rate revenue can only be used to pay for acquiring water or for water system improvements. Rate increases signify an increased cost of supplying water, which could mean deficiencies in the system or the need for improvements to the system. A community may experience flooding issues. Deficiencies in storm water removal or combined storm water or wastewater could be a culprit.
The III FFC is in the process of building a coalition of organizations and industries involved at all levels of the water systems process ranging from engineers, industry professionals, and public officials in order to educate public bodies. Our objective is to shed light on the problem and develop solutions at the state and federal level to fund the necessary projects to continue providing a clean water supply to the people of Illinois. As an organization, we plan to start providing educational seminars with presentations regarding all aspects of the problem. If you are interested in learning more about this issue, please contact the III FFC office.